The Sustainability Spectacle: Subtle Greenwashing

Sustainability is not a trend. But for many who do not understand it, it is. For people who continue to make bags out of petrochemical based plastics and deem them sustainable luxury, who make ‘vegan fashion’ also made of plastic- which has a history just as if not more cruel than the animal agriculture industry, for people who often speak a bit too soon without thinking critically, sustainability can be and is a trend, a spectacle.

People who are spectacles themselves can get caught in this debacle. Spectacles are blinding. One example is the Stella McCartney brand-  whose eponymous designer was born a spectacle to much privilege. Let us look closely at a Stella marketing campaign for ‘sustainable viscose’.

The video is entitled, ‘A Story of Sustainable Viscose’, but there isn’t any mention of how the sustainably sourced wood actually gets converted into soft viscose fibres. If you google this, it is usually a chemically intensive process (that doesn’t sound very sustainable).

At a recent event held at the Fashion Incubator San Francisco during Fashion Revolution Week, I asked Anni Gulingsgrud, Director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition on Textiles, about viscose at Stella (with whom she proudly worked with) and whether the chemical process to convert the wood pulp to fabric indeed was closed loop, but in her response she avoided my question. Even if the process were closed loop, let’s say there’s an accident at the factory- where will all the toxic chemicals go? Like an oil spill, like Fukushima, the chemicals will go back to our environment.

Don’t even get me started on ‘vegan’ fashion- plastic. How can Stella McCartney, and other ‘vegan’ fashion brands for the matter, tout sustainability, creating a spectacle, either purposefully or accidentally, easily amidst her own spectacle as the daughter of Paul, that blinds people who are a part of the spectacle to think that bags made of plastic are the new modern luxury? As Juan Diego Gerscovich, Co-founder of Industry of All Nations once said, people in the vegan-fashion industry making things out of plastic and calling it vegan are a bit confused.

Now let’s take a look at Gucci, part of the Kering group that also touts sustainability.

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Luxury bags these days are usually made of coated canvas, which is essentially plastic covered cotton. But the descriptions on these luxury items won’t tell you this. What does ‘low environmental impact’ really mean and why is Gucci saying this without providing any more explanation? Is this Greenwashing? Another point: Anyone who understands fabrics knows that cotton and linen are two different fabrics grown from two different plants- so what is cotton linen lining?

Subtle greenwashing once again.

Let’s take a look at Everlane.

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Everlane believes that:

The ethical choice is the right one

Doing the right thing not only feels better, we think it pays off in the long run. Whether we’re choosing a factory, being transparent to customers about our costs, or making sure our colleague is being treated fairly—there’s a right choice, and we want people to make it.

(see Everlane’s website for more of their beliefs).

This really sounds amazing. And Everlane really has put in a lot of effort and the Venture Capital money they received to clearly market themselves as ‘Ethical’ and ‘Radical’. Everlane never says that they’re ‘sustainable’, but to many, people assume that Everlane is sustainable. Through their marketing Everlane strategically or accidentally curates a semantic field of ‘sustainability’ that thousands of consumers buy into, thinking they’re helping the planet and themselves. However it is only a spectacle without substance. Everlane hasn’t chosen to use pesticide free, non-gmo cotton to prevent further cotton farmers from committing suicide in India by doing so, or from protecting the health of their global market. Choosing natural pigments, non-gmo, and pesticide free would be the right ethical choice, but are they taking it?

Looking closer at Everlane’s product offering, none of their cotton is pesticide free nor non-gmo. Everlane still uses synthetic dyes and polyester fabrics (microplastics!).

To sum it up, Everlane is ethical when it comes to labour practises, but not ethical when it comes to making the right choice for the materials they use for all their products. However, ‘Radical transparency’ is truly a marketing tactic that Everlane is built on, and one could argue that H&M, and the GAP are even more transparent than Everlane . 

A final commentary. ‘You can be sustainable and stylish all at the same time’, but by saying this yourself to completely dodge the question asked of you by Vogue and not describing what your clothes are made of, is a clear sign of subtle greenwashing. (Not to mention Miley using her buttocks as means of avoiding probing media attention). P.S. As a fashion insider I was told by a reputable source that Stella McCartney only broke even as a brand after she did a collaboration with Adidas selling sportswear made of micro-plastic emitting sportswear.

Please look before you place your money into someone else’s spectacle.

Love and peace,

-Al

‘We’re doomed’ So you might as well be happy and live perfectly by your values

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Esteemed social scientist and policy maker Mayer Hillman who has over 60 years of experience predicting the outcomes of macro social behaviors, says, with a beaming smile, ‘We’re doomed. The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.’

Today with CO2 concentrated in the atmosphere at over 400 parts-per-million we’re beyond ‘the point of no return’.

‘Hillman accuses all kinds of leaders – from religious leaders to scientists to politicians – of failing to honestly discuss what we must do to move to zero-carbon emissions. “I don’t think they can because society isn’t organised to enable them to do so. Political parties’ focus is on jobs and GDP, depending on the burning of fossil fuels.”’

‘Without hope, goes the truism, we will give up. And yet optimism about the future is wishful thinking, says Hillman. He believes that accepting that our civilisation is doomed could make humanity rather like an individual who recognises he is terminally ill. Such people rarely go on a disastrous binge; instead, they do all they can to prolong their lives.’

‘Can civilisation prolong its life until the end of this century? “It depends on what we are prepared to do.” He fears it will be a long time before we take proportionate action to stop climatic calamity. “Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”’

With the high probability that the end is near, it seems that one ought to live without fear nor without holding oneself back from one’s most earnest desires. Of course this doesn’t mean we should stop respecting people and planet— it behooves us to do so even more.

We need to STOP pretending, right now, that large companies that leveraged exploitation of cheap labour and lax environmental regulations for fast fashion 40 years ago (when warnings of environmental destruction were already imminent) will be able to become sustainable and continue ‘business as normal’ by the year 2030 (which is the goal at which all UN Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved by all stakeholders within the fashion industry- a timeline which already seems to be just too late).

As consumers, we have the power to change the fashion industry, the second most polluting industry in the world, by choosing what kind of clothes we buy. Stop buying new clothes from companies whose mission is to sell you stuff. Stop buying new clothes from companies that continue to use toxic synthetic chemicals in their supply chains. Stop buying clothes from companies that greenwash you into believing that wearing their ‘recycled clothes’ that used more energy and resources to recycle than make virgin fabric from organic cotton are ‘sustainable’, whilst they go burn all the clothes from last season’s collection the didn’t sell. Stoping buy clothes and bags made of plastic: Polyester, polyurethane, acrylic, nylon, spandex, lycra-they release bioaccumulating micro-plastics that are probably in your drinking water and salmon on your plate.  Stop buying clothes and bags made of fabric that comes from regenerable wood pulp but is processed using caustic chemicals that are released back into the environment. Think before you buy something, know what you’re buying and why.

Live by your values that you understand to their very roots of origin. Tell that girl/guy/they you like them. Give your parents a kiss. Hug your pet. Finally take that next step to becoming who you want to be, a step into happiness. You might as well do it now, as the world as we know it is probably going to change, very soon. Even if we’re not doomed, you’ll still be glad you did it.

 

Fashion Revolution Week Post 1: Is sustainability a trend?

As part of Fashion Revolution Week I’d like to write at least one post for every other day of the week that addresses the issue of sustainability in the fashion industry.

My first post entitled ‘Is sustainability a trend?’ begins below. Enjoy!

 

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One afternoon in France at the Hyéres fashion festival sustainability think tank, somebody amongst the audience asked, ‘Is sustainability a trend?’.

The answer was a clear ‘no’. Trends aren’t timeless; sustainability is. The two are mutually exclusive. Sustainability in fashion means producing fashion in such a way that doesn’t harm current nor future generations throughout the garment’s lifecycle.

In addition to being bashed for poor labour ethics, it’s becoming more prevalent to the general public that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world after animal agriculture, with images of landfills filled with sky-high piles of discarded (largely polyester a.k.a. plastic) clothing filling the media sphere. Key players in the industry largely responsible for this mess have been taking note, however, and ‘sustainability’ and ‘innovation’ are definitely trendy buzz words, often thrown around as a means of greenwashing.

As consumers with access to the world-wide-web of information, it behooves us to understand what we’re being sold before being swooped off our feet by the wave of a trend. Clothes made of recycled polyester? (Buzz alert). Was there a larger carbon footprint incurred to recycle the polyester instead of using natural fibres to make virgin fabric? What is sustainable clothing in a nutshell?

Sustainable clothing is often timeless in that it never goes out of the user’s style, and is responsibly made of ingredients that don’t harm the user’s body. The garment may rest in wardrobe for a few seasons, but always comes back to use. After wearing the said timeless piece 100 times you may need to repair it—but the fact that you still want to repair it after 100 wears makes it a timeless piece for you.

If you can’t quite put a finger on what your personal style is— if it feels & looks good, you know who made it, what it’s made of, know you or someone else will wear it more than 30 times, and that even if it ends up in a landfill it will easily decompose in less than a year without leaking any hazardous materials into ecosystems, or if its easily recyclable into something else useful and doesn’t shed micro plastics into our water and food systems: I congratulate you for finding some great clothing!

 

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La Société du Spectacle by Guy Debord

 

 

 

2 days in Metropolitan Manila

People I meet going to the Philippines on their way to the beach ask me what’s worthwhile experiencing in Metro-Manila, where to go, what to eat, where to stay. Metro-Manila often gets put-off by travel websites as a city that’s too miserable to even bother visiting, but indeed, such warnings make the French want to come even more, or so they say. And what’s there not to like about France and the French?

As the densest city in the world (number 1-wiki it), Metro-Manila is very much remarkable. So much that I’ll have to make a two day itinerary restriction.

Don’t have a place to crash and looking for a reliable hostel in the center of one of the most recently gentrified yet resilient up-and-coming neighbourhoods where the who’s who of society comes for a drink? Stay at Z-Hostel .

Otherwise, if you’re not quite on a budget stay at the Shangri La Fort Bonifacio or Shangri La Makati, if you stay at the prior do say hi to Gale at the High Street Lounge.

Day 1:

8am-12noonish

Grab coffee and a bite at Blocleaf Café.

Go on a bicycle tour of Intramuros in the morning with Bambike , finish the tour with a pint of local craft beer the Bambike Intramuros shop has on tap. Reflect on early days of Globalisation amidst Romanesque architecture. Least we begin to remember that the Philippine islands didn’t just fall to the hands of some colonizers who everybody from the Philippines is named after as many may mistakenly believe when I talk about my mixed heritage. The maternal French/English ‘Litton’ part of my family actually relocated to the Philippines to escape the onset of WWII. Do think twice before you meet somebody of mixed heritage and describe their surname as coming from some ‘colonizer’. The Philippines also hosted a number of Jewish refugees following the Holocaust, and Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war. A little history lesson. My Grandfather could give you a much more expansive one.

12noonish to 2pm

Have lunch at Barbara’s, or skip out on lunch and get churros con chocolaté at the Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros . Check-out the view from the roof-top. Stop for souvenirs at The Manila Collectible in Intramuros. Say hi to Virgie.

Go back to your accommodation. Take a swim and a siesta, a nap.

Or check out the National Museum near intramuros, or the Ayala Museum back in Makati.

If you’re looking for stylish tropical garb stop by Tropa Store.

This should take you to just about sunset time.

Go for sunset cocktails on the rooftop of the Raffles hotel at Mirèo Terrace .

Or if yoga is your thing, take a class at YogaHive in Salcedo Village. Try a class with Chloe or Quino.

7pm-ish- bedtime

Pop by Batala Bar in Makati for another drink and dinner. It’s solar powered and everything’s local, check out their crafty retail space too. Try to get there in time for the complimentary 8:30pm bamboo-infused lambanog shot.

If you’re staying in Fort Bonifacio and don’t want to spend too much time stuck in traffic at this hour, grab dinner at Manam or Abé , and a drink at the recently opened Coconut Club.  You could continue barhopping in Fort Bonifacio to Chotto Matte and Las Flores and make your way to Poblacion. But if you’re not feeling the wannabe New York or Singapore vibes of Fort Bonifacio just pop over straight to Poblacion.

Check-out Alamat, Tambai, Dulo, and if you’re really feeling social check out this bar under Pura Vida (its name I can’t currently recall). You won’t be lost for choice in Poblacion.

If it ends up being 4am and you’re feeling a bit peckish and want legitimate Korean food, eat at Mansun, or get the best rice porridge from Go-To Monster —your stomach will be very happy, your wallet still full too.

Day 2:

8am to 12noonish

If it’s a Saturday, check-out the Salcedo Market for a plethora of local bites.

If it’s Sunday, check-out the Legazpi Sunday Market.

If it’s neither Saturday nor Sunday, check-out Manila’s Chinatown, the first ‘Chinatown’ in the world. Wear a hat. Bring a reusable shopping bag incase you want to buy some local lacatan bananas.

12noonish to dinner

Make your way to the Alley at Karrivin. Check out the well curated contemporary art gallery ArtInformal. Explore the shops at rest of the Alley and have an early dinner at Toyo Eatery (they’re closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s however). You could also try Romulo Cafe. Or if you’re feeling vegetarian, Corner Tree Cafe— Ariana Grande eats there when she’s on tour.

Or if you’re looking for some of the best pasta in South East Asia, have dinner at La Nuova Pasteleria in San Antonio Plaza. Try the spinach ravioli. It hasn’t changed since I was 5 years old.

After dinner

If it’s Thursday and you want to dance to electronic beats with the fun artsy crowd, check out XXXX on Chino Roces.  If you’re feeling gay and pop go to Nectar in Fort Bonifacio.

Otherwise go back to Poblacion or Batala Bar for a pint or two, or stop by a grocery for some local fare and stay in and read a book , and rest + prepare for your travels the next day.

Keep an open mind and enjoy your travels.

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Roman Romance

19h. Hop off the motorino and park properly. An aperitivo with my dear friend Eliza by the river Tevere at Freni. It’s always busy at this spot, it’s where all the artsy youthful people go, apparently.

Order drinks, something with tequila in it (the only alcohol that’s an upper, not a downer, you know?), I’ll go outside and find a table first (hopefully get one by the flame lamp). Nope, no flame lamp. Drinks arrive and find us, we take turns getting food at the buffet. Fresh salads, pasta, breads, cinnamon apples. Aside from the flimsy plastic forks you can’t quite eat with, cozy.

Conversation with Eliza is deep, and meaningful, of course, but I notice someone a couple of times from the corner of my eye enter the space. Tall, dark, slim sharp features, curious gentle eyes, long curly hair, great black wool coat, worn leather boots, and a simple tote bag from some art exhibit. Alone? Or waiting for someone. He orders at the bar. One hour later he still seems to be alone. Or still waiting.

‘Why don’t you go talk to him?’, Eliza says. ‘I’ll go inside warm up, and get another drink, go talk to him!’.

Okay, I’m officially on my own now, no Eliza to push me any further or make something happen.

Standing in a field of glowing people, drinking, smoking, having a good time amidst the flame lamps and polished cobblestones by the Tiber. The moon still bright from being full less than three days ago. I’m alone, yet not alone, observing.

What kinds of shoes are most of the women wearing? Leather. Black leather. Oh I see a Falabella bag. Boots with heels. It’s chilly. Is everyone casually flirting with everyone else? I start thinking about what brought me here to this moment. How did I get here. It’s such a beautiful evening. Oh, I’m so lucky.

I catch a soft gaze upon me. OK so there must be some reciprocal interest. He gets up from a seated position on a cobblestone ledge overlooking another part of Trastevere. Goes in to get another drink. I’ve been outside for at least 30 minutes. I go inside too and check-in with Eliza. Follow him back outside. A mix of high strung curiosity, and guilt for Eliza waiting for me, yet not having made any moves. I have to say something.

Outside. Back on the cobblestone ledge again. Still alone. Drinking a golden beer out of a glass goblet. The occasional glance. We’ve had eye contact at least a couple of times at this point.

There’s space open to his right on the cobblestone ledge. I place myself there, but still leave enough room for 2 people in between us, of course. I peer out into the crowd, observing, and sensing what next to do. I take a sip of wine.

Scusa…’ 

A couple asks if I could scoot down right next to him to give them space to sit. Perhaps I knew this would happen, perhaps I didn’t. Why didn’t they sit in between us? Oh the ways of the world. I glance up at him to make sure I’m not intruding, he smiles. The couple absorbed in their own conversation scootches in closer. I’m pretty much rubbing shoulders with him now, making the need to strike up a conversation unavoidable, seeing that neither of us is talking to anyone really.

Stai aspettando qualcuno?’ I ask .

He says he isn’t waiting for anyone. His name is Fuad. 26. Persian architect (that explains most of it). He lives in Venice, but came down to Rome for work.

He said he was watching me earlier thinking, ‘This guy is like me, someone who just enjoys observing in solitude’, and opened up a kind smile.

Our minds were lubricated enough at this point in the evening after at least 3 hours of having arrived. 22h. He’d already pulled out the intellectual card.

Secondo te, qual’è la ragione della vita?’, according to you, what’s the meaning of life, I asked.

Amare, e sapere.’, to love, and to know, he said.

A clear answer given without any hesitation. Definitely premeditated.

‘Qual’è la più importante?’, which is the more important, I asked

Amare.’, to love, he said.

And after a conversation that lasted a good 40 minutes discussing what it really means to love and what it really means to know, raising thoughts from late thinkers like Debord and Heraclitus, I attempted to reveal where this conversation may end.

Torno a Venezia domani mattina’, I’m going back to Venice tomorrow morning, he said.

A che ora?’, what time, I asked.

Alle 4, dammi il tuo numero, restiamo in contatto‘, at 4 am, give me your number, we’ll stay in touch he said.

Un baccio, and a warm goodbye.

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UNsustainable development goals

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I was a delegate at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit one year ago to discuss fashion and sustainability. Towards the end of the conference my friends and I grew frustrated at how the conference was being facilitated and the lack of novel solutions being discussed. One conference facilitator said my friend’s ideas were too radical. We ended up disobeying conference formalities and staged an unexpected protest on stage in front of thousands of fashion industry leaders. STOP! In the name of fashion.

Consistently throughout the 20th and 21st centuries we have seen a number of international conferences that aim to develop human rights and environmental stewardship. Blah blah blah. Talk about the U.N. Sustainable Development goals. Clean water for everyone? Access to nutritional food? Closed loop production systems that don’t leak toxic waste into our water systems? Did you really have to discuss that for hours on end and fly people from around the world and pick them up in BMW’s to figure that out? How was your multi-thousand dollar business class flight used to discuss how to help people who earn less than a dollar a day? Talk about UNsustainable goals. The resources to the solutions to all such issues exist, they’re just not distributed accordingly. All these conferences are often just ego-boosters, temporary moments of comfort and distractions to sedate people from actually doing something about today’s humanitarian environmental issues.

Sure perhaps these conferences bridge information gaps and people learn new things, but why are there consistently informational gaps between generations? Don’t people of different generations communicate with each other anymore? Either way, there must be a more reasonable means of communication instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a conference.

The next time I’m invited to a sustainability conference to talk about the UNsustainable development goals I am most likely going to have to pass. I’d much rather focus on actually working on sustainability projects instead of just talking about them. I’ve had enough. Time to get to work.

 

 

 

 

A place to be

 

I have been living in Manila, Philippines for the past three months now. It is my first time living in the country as a young adult with a particular identity. I don’t follow many traditions of the 21st and 20th centuries. I don’t idolize bacon. I don’t wear polyester, lycra, or nylon clothing.  I don’t like nor use shampoo. Going to the supermarket is a traumatising experience.

Before moving here to start another chapter of life I was anxious: Will I find a community of people that accepts me and nurtures my interests as a designer, artist, and struggling environmentalist? Will I be persecuted for my sexuality? Will the buildings and people inspire me, or send me constantly day-dreaming of Rome?

I just came back from an organic vegetable market and filled my fridge for less than 12 dollars. I have re-discovered and put together a budding cultural understanding of this land’s pre-colonial and colonial past. I met some tribal Filipinos the other day that share the same philosophy as I do on the interconnectedness between Nature and Man in our universe. Textiles are also very important to them. They make beautiful soil paintings from ground earth. I can feel comfortable going out in a skirt. No more anxieties about being myself in this place.

 

 

Why Manila ought to be the Gay Capital of Asia (from a man’s perspective)

You’ve probably read the recent news about Taiwan legalising gay marriage, and in the Philippines, a country (made of more than 7,000 islands) not too far away, it has got to start somewhere. Manila!

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ONE: You can’t say Manila without saying, MANila

TWO: Pilipinas (How Filipinos say ‘Philippines)… Pili-PINAS, wait, did you just say penis?!

THREE: You don’t have to look too hard to find gay nightlife

FOUR: These Golden Queens 

FIVE: Manila Luzon

SIX: Because it’s the home of The King of Catwalk (who I happened to message on Grindr- a gay networking app.)IMG_6897 2

SEVEN: Because unlike many other languages where the word for ‘gay’ is borrowed from English, there’s actually a native for ‘gay’ in Tagalog. It’s bakla 

EIGHT: There’s actually a Manila based LGBTQ magazine that’s pretty rad

NINE: And you still wonder why Manila should be the gay capital of Asia and gain more momentum as the next Asian capital where gay marriage ought to be legalised? Help President Duterte stay true to his word by expressing yourself, today.

boycott NESTLÉ

If you haven’t heard this news that’s already a couple of years old: Nestlé doesn’t believe that water should be a public right. Instead, it sucks up water from local water sheds and sells that water in plastic bottles.

No more kit-kats, twin-popsicles, yoghurt, chocolate… That dairy from abused hormone pumped dairy cows isn’t great for you anyways. Not to mention all that sugar. Stop the addiction. An addiction to dairy and meat is like an addiction to cigarettes.